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Why hasn't every NHS organisation embraced Speak out Safely?

  • Comments (6)

When we started inviting NHS organisations to declare their support for Speak out Safely, I naively thought it would be fairly easy. Send an email to all the CEOs and they’ll review their whistleblowing policies, making a public commitment to support and protect their staff if they raise concerns about patient care or safety.

To me, it seems logical for employers to embrace this opportunity.

But, at time of writing, only 26 organisations have officially signed up. Although the campaign is gathering momentum and none of the organisations we have approached have explicitly refused, it seems that many trusts are still wary of tackling this important issue.

We are simply asking organisations to make a public commitment to protect those who raise concerns and to act on these concerns, and many people not involved in the NHS might be surprised to hear this commitment has not already been made. As an outsider looking in, I have little wonder that NHS staff do not always feel they will be safe to raise concerns within their organisations, or that some feel the need to become whistleblowers by raising them externally.

Nurses at Mid Staffs were criticised for not speaking out when patient safety was clearly being compromised, but those who did were not always taken seriously. In perhaps the worst case, Helene Donnelly was left fearing for her job and personal safety, while her concerns went unaddressed and the colleagues who were the subject of concerns were protected.

I have no doubt that there are health professionals out there who want to raise concerns but have not yet felt able to. If there is no guarantee that they are safe to do so, or that their concerns will even be acted on, I can understand why they might be reluctant.

But if you knew that management have a legal obligation to do something, would you be more likely to say something?

This week is Speak out Safely week at Nursing Times. We pledge to do everything we can to make it safe for all health professionals to raise concerns over patient care if they need to.

Are you behind us?

Is your employer signed up? If not, you can download a letter here to send to your CEO encouraging them to do so.

  • Comments (6)

Readers' comments (6)

  • Anonymous

    I've raised a concern about a colleague before, something happened repeatedly with a particularly vulnerable person (which many others MUST have observed) the Trust did support me, but it was still an absolutely horrendous experience to go through. The outcome was of a low level retraining and that member if staff soon after was moved wards....an outcome at least!

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  • Tiger Girl

    Most Trusts have at least got some senior people, who think protecting the trust's 'reputation' involves covering up things such as staffing shortages, etc. It is true that if a few Trusts adopt openness, while most do not, the ones which admit to failings are likely to get 'trashed by the media' with rather bad consequences: so everyone needs to adopt the same, standardised and open, policy for staff who are honestly highlighting genuine concerns.

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  • Anonymous

    NHS organisations do not listen to nurses. Why should they? We will take everything thrown at us and will stand up to no one. There is no motivation to jump on board a campaign launched by a nursing publication. No clout.

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  • tinkerbell

    'When we started inviting NHS organisations to declare their support for Speak out Safely, I naively thought it would be fairly easy'.

    Naivety can be a good thing I've come to think. Yes we might all start out naïve but if we knew how difficult it might be at the outset we might not even bother. It's better than being totally cynical.

    Sometimes I am told that I am still naïve. A colleague recently told me that 'something funny's going on here, if you know what I mean'. I had to tell them 'sorry I don't know what you mean'. (Well not the details). So he explained them to me. 'Oh right'.

    Keep at it NT. Those who say it can't be done shouldn't stand in the way of those who are doing it.


    I can't keep up with all the skulduggery.

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  • Anonymous

    tinkerbell | 9-Oct-2013 12:05 pm

    Nothing wrong with being a bit of naive. It would be awful to live in a world full of cynics. However, cynics (or in this case, realists) are not the problem. The trouble Tinkerbell, is not that people are standing in the way. It is that they are not standing at all.

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 9-Oct-2013 12:05 pm

    'Naivety can be a good thing I've come to think. Yes we might all start out naïve but if we knew how difficult it might be at the outset we might not even bother. It's better than being totally cynical.'

    I think I'm with you - I am fairly sure that with the realisation that changing anything is incredibly difficult, comes to most people a sort of 'resigned inactivity', leaving only the stubbornly pig-headed and 'half-barmy with anger' to continue the struggle.

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